Vicky Vandiver felt like she was being fired from a job when she kissed her son, Nicholas, goodbye after he took his oath of office at the Naval Academy in June.
"You spend 18 years on the job giving everything you have. This job is 24/7; there is no calling in sick, taking a break or even getting paid for it. Your entire existence is to make sure the job gets done," Vandiver said. "I-Day came and I was sent to the unemployment line. Period. There was a new boss on the job."
Induction Day (I-Day) at the Academy marked the beginning of Plebe Summer. It's six weeks of no television, music or Internet. The freshman Class of 2016 could not leave the Navy's campus and were only allowed three phone calls.
“Plebe Summer is an intense program that prepares the freshman (plebe) class morally, mentally, and physically to join the Brigade of Midshipmen. I am extremely proud of the Class of 2016," said Cmdr. David Guluzian, the officer in charge of Plebe Summer. "Also, it has been a privilege to observe the classes of 2013 and 2014 in their role as leaders, teachers, and mentors to the plebes this summer.”
When her son did call home, Vandiver said he talked about Plebe summer being a struggle, but in a good way.
"Lots of different types of people trying to become one entity has been challenging ... but very rewarding," Vandiver said. "He feels he knows these guys at a deeper level in only six weeks than some of the guys he has known a long time."
Doug Cabarle's daughter, Diana, also took the oath this June. He said adjusting to her being away with little communication may have been easier on him than other plebe parents.
"I grew up a military brat and retired from the Navy. My wife and I are used to it," Cabarle said. "Still, not having the convenience of instant messaging, email, or Facebook meant relying on the Post Office."
He said most of what he's heard from his daughter has been positive, except for "the occasional moment of irritation, but that comes with any branch of the military."
Vandiver and Cabarle will reunite with their kids at Plebe Parent’s Weekend this Friday at approximately 12:15 p.m. It's a chance for family members and friends to learn more about plebe and midshipman life at the Naval Academy, according to the school. Visitors can dine in King Hall, tour their plebe’s room, visit academic buildings and classrooms and attend musical events.
The general public and plebe families also are invited to attend the plebe formal parade on Worden Field Saturday at 9:30 a.m.
Vandiver said she's a little nervous about reuniting with her son.
"Will he still be my Nicky? Will he want me to hug him? Kiss him? In public? Is this even OK within the yard and in uniform?" Vandiver wondered. "June 27th we sent our boy to Bancroft Hall. August 10th we get to greet and honor the man he has become and admire the future officer he will learn and grow to be."
Cabarle said, "I know she'll be changed for the better. When it comes to her determination, she'll be more focused, more determined, and give this old sailor a run for my money."
He's also pretty sure his daughter plans to spend some of his money making "up for all the shopping she has missed during Plebe Summer."
Vandiver said the one thing her son wants to do this weekend is go see a movie—a luxury he hasn't had for six weeks.
"Over the summer I realized how brave and how strong and how un-selfish my son is," Vandiver said. "Plebe summer made both of us stronger, braver and more appreciative of any time we get to say hello."